Environmental toxicology and chemistry

Desorption of nitramine and nitroaromatic explosive residues from soils detonated under controlled conditions.

PMID 21038362


Potentially toxic nitroaromatic and nitramine compounds are introduced onto soils during detonation of explosives. The present study was conducted to investigate the desorption and transformation of explosive compounds loaded onto three soils through controlled detonation. The soils were proximally detonated with Composition B, a commonly used military explosive containing 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT), hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX), and octahydro 1,3,5,7-tetranitro-1,3,5,7-tetrazocine (HMX). Gas-exchangeable surface areas were measured from pristine and detonated soils. Aqueous batches of detonated soils were prepared by mixing each soil with ultrapure water. Samples were collected for 141 d and concentrations of Composition B compounds and TNT transformation products 2-amino-4,6-dinitrotoluene (2ADNT), 4-amino-2,6-dinitrotoluene (4ADNT), and 1,3,5-trinitrobenzene (1,3,5-TNB) were measured. The RDX, HMX, and TNT concentrations in detonated soil batches exhibited first-order physical desorption for the first, roughly, 10 d and then reached steady state apparent equilibrium within 40 d. An aqueous batch containing powdered Composition B in water was sampled over time to quantify TNT, RDX, and HMX dissolution from undetonated Composition B particles. The TNT, RDX, and HMX concentrations in aqueous batches of pure Composition B reached equilibrium within 6, 11, and 20 d, respectively. Detonated soils exhibited lower gas-exchangeable surface areas than their pristine counterparts. This is likely due to an explosive residue coating on detonated soil surfaces, shock-induced compaction, sintering, and/or partial fusion of soil particles under the intense heat associated with detonation. Our results suggest that explosive compounds loaded to soils through detonation take longer to reach equilibrium concentrations in aqueous batches than soils loaded with explosive residues through aqueous addition. This is likely due to the heterogeneous interactions between explosive residues and soil particle surfaces.